I've become a bit of a tomato growing pedant. Passing allotment plots where people have failed to nip out side shoots causes me to mutter, and I can't abide the sight of an incorrectly-tied in stem.
So I thought I'd reprise my tomato growing advice of last year, with a few small refinements. If you'd like to add further tweaks, do tell.
This guidance applies to cordon - or indeterminate - plants (check on the packet which type you have - if they're bush tomatoes ignore point 3 and 6):
1. Sow early, in a heated propagator, but don't plant out too early (wait til the frost risk is completely over). Make sure you plant the seedlings out deeply - I usually plant to the depth of the first leaf, which I remove - as this helps a strong root system to develop.
2. Add fertiliser as they grow, but not too much: overfeeding can dilute the flavour. I favour regular additions of comfrey tea.
3. Remove any shoots that appear between the main stem and leaves emerging from it (I'll add a pic eventually to show you what I mean). Why? These cause the plants to divide their fruiting energy between two stems, weakening the plant and stopping it from producing fruit.
4. As the fruit appears and the lower leaves start to crinkle, cut them away (for the same reasons as for no 3), until you're eventually left with a stem bare of leaves. Be ruthless: when it comes to tomatoes, there is a grain of truth in the adage treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen ...
5. Water as often as possible, particularly if they are being grown in a growbag or container. Help the water to sink in rather than running off by making a shallow indentation in the soil around the plant. Mulching with newspaper or grass cuttings will also help to conserve water.
7. Once four or five trusses (see pic, left) have formed, pinch out the main growing stem to halt the plant's growth. That way, the plant will put its energies into producing the fruits already forming rather than spreading itself too thin.
8. Pick the ripe tomatoes regularly, taking the time to rub the leaves between your fingers and suck in the delicious tomato plant smell. It's one of an allotmenteer's great pleasures (also applies to blackcurrant bushes).
If that sounds like way too much hard work, check out your local farmers' market and buy locally-grown tommies - they always taste far better.